A month ago, right after I had my hip replaced, I called TSA both in Washington DC and in Philadelphia to find out what to expect when I went through security, now that I have a piece of metal in my body large enough to trigger alarms. Both TSA representatives explained that I would need to be patted down. Both representatives assured me that the pat-down agents would be gentle. They warned me that the pat-down agents would touch me where the thigh meets the torso. I was okay with that.
When I arrived at the Philadelphia airport screening area, I was ordered to place my cane in the scanner. I complied. But then they refused to give it back. The TSA representatives ordered me to walk through the metal detector without my cane. I told them I have a hip implant and that the metal detector would sound the alarm. They said I had to walk through anyway, without my cane. When I was through, they still refused to give me my cane.
They said I had to be patted down. The ordered me into a clear plastic box. They ordered me to put my feet on painted footprints that were several feet apart. I told the pat-down representative that I’m still sore from surgery 4 weeks ago. She said, “‘I’ll be extra rough there.” I told her that was not a good joke. She patted my thighs, as the TSA agents had explained.
Then she ran her fingers down my crotch, poking them into my vagina and touching my clitoris through my underpants. I was so shocked that I screamed. She tried to shame me for screaming. “Really?” I said, “Yes, really! There was no need to touch me there!” She said, “I have to check there.” I said, “No, you don’t.” At this point she looked like she wanted to make me miss my plane, so I didn’t say anything more. She wiped her gloves with a cloth and handed the cloth to someone outside the box. After a few moments the person who took the cloth waved me on through and someone gave back my cane.
For the rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning, I kept thinking there has to be a way to avoid being molested again. Finally I decided to use my meditation techniques and remind myself – I’m all right, right now. When I got to the part of the airport scanning process, for my return flight, where I had to put my cane into the scanner, I stood beside the scanner. I asked for my cane back. Three agents debated whether I could have it back. One asked, “Can you walk without your cane?” I answered, “I want my cane.” Finally a man gave it back to me. A woman agent told me I should buy a fiberglass cane. I don’t see the point when my artificial hip is going to set off the alarm.
The man led me to a scanning machine. Again I had to put my feet on painted footprints about 2 feet apart, and raise my hands into the air. I had to give the man my cane. A panel slid around me, and they let me go. But they didn’t give my cane back. It was in another scanning machine. Eventually, I got it back and I was given directions to where my husband was waiting for me.
The only thing I didn’t have to do was take that ziplock baggie with my 100 ml liquids out of my backpack. Nobody was being asked to do that anymore. Nobody was having fingernail clippers stolen any more. Now they are sexually molesting people who have medical implants.
When I got home, I called the local TSA and told the woman I’d spoken with before the flight that the TSA pat-down agent had sexually molested me. She said, “I told you they would touch you where your thigh meets the torso. I said I know where that is and I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with having the agent poke her fingers into my genitals and touch my clitoris. I gave her the time and date and location in the airport where this had occurred. I described what I was wearing so she could spot me on the video.
She said she’d have her supervisor call and explain things to me. I told her there is nothing to explain. The only thing I want to hear is that all TSA agents will be instructed NEVER to touch a passenger’s genitals. The agent told me that when her supervisor calls, I can explain what I want to her. I also left a note on the www.tsa.gov/blog website, but they have not yet posted it (if their moderator ever intends to post it.)
I will be sending copies of this blog to my congressional representatives. I’m feeling helpless. I want to fly. I do not want to be molested. Not all airports have scanning machines. I do not know what my options are, so long as Uncle Sam thinks molesting women is the latest safety fad.